The 2023 Orchard Project Inspiration List
From the team at The Orchard Project, we’d like to wish you and your loved ones have a wonderful holiday season and happy new year.
As our holiday gift to you, we once again asked recent Orchard Project artists to share #somethingnew — the new theater, audio, and TV *they* found most inspiring this year. Who better to hightlight the best of the new than those making it? Featuring the genres of work that The Orchard Project supports, this list naturally reflects the diversity of our artists, and like our mission, are full of stories that provide, inspire, and provoke. You’ll find TV shows by female creators, classic plays and musicals that were reclaimed and redefined, and innovative dramatic audio. Here are the picks of the year — with quotes explaining their picks from our artists!
Thank you for being part of something new. Should you want to support our many programs, please consider making an end-of-year gift to support The Orchard Project.
We send your our warmest holiday wishes … and hope that your new year is full of (good) drama! We look forward to catching up in the new year with you.
THE 2023 INSPIRATION LIST
THE NEW TV OUR ARTISTS LOVED
DEADLOCH (Amazon Prime)
One recent OP artist was “currently obsessed with the TV show DEADLOCH.” Created by the Aussie comedy duo the Kates, “it is both a comedic subversion of traditional gritty small town murder mystery shows and totally delivers on the same thrilling genre conventions it satirizes.” Pitched as funny Broadchurch, it takes place in a rural, blue collar community and centers on a cop from Sydney whose wife wants her to quit the force to open an animal rescue farm, but when a series of men are found dead and naked on Deadloch beach, she must get back to it.
DEAD RINGERS (Amazon Prime)
David Cronenberg’s 1988 film Dead Ringers gets a gender-swapped revamp though star Rachel Weisz’s pair of uncanny dual performances. “Mind-bending and utterly chilling,” our artists found it both stylistically worth catching and one of the more haunting dramas of the year. “This isn’t a mere rehash; it’s a deep, twisted dive into womanhood and the societal scalpel.”
DREAMING WHILST BLACK (BBC, Paramount+, Showtime)
With a large number of strong, original comedy series debuting in 2023, the BBC import Dreaming Whilst Black stood out to our artists for its ability to liven up a familiar structure and for its sheer amount of laugh-out-loud moments. It follows an aspiring film director named Kwabena (Adjani Salmon), who toils through dead-end jobs and side gigs, it “is a riot of laughs and sharp wit. Kwabena’s struggle is our delight.”
FELLOW TRAVELERS (Paramount+, Showtime)
This limited series, starring Matt Bomer and Jonathan Bailey as two G-men who navigate their torrential love through decades of McCarthyism, war, bigotry, secrets, and plagues, was highlighted for its “acting and its fairly novel (and thematically complex) historical backdrop.” “Equal parts political thriller and steamy, doomed romance, Fellow Travelers proves to be an addictive yarn that, despite its period setting, feels vital and relevant in 2023 America.”
THE HORROR OF DOLORES ROACH (Prime Video)
Leave it to OP artists to highlight the major podcast to TV adaptation of this year. A playful show about a serial killer, the show was called by artists “A deliciously dark delight,” with lead “Justina Machado as phenomenal” in this series that was like “Sweeney Todd with a twist of urban legend and a pinch of hilarious horror.”
A MURDER AT THE END OF THE WORLD (FX on Hulu)
“Iceland’s never been chillier or more thrilling” in this murder mystery that keeps viewers guessing until the very end from Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij (Netflix’s The OA). With two parallel timelines, solid worldbuilding, and a “stellar performance from Emma Corrin (The Crown) as Darby Hart, a Sherlock Holmes of Generation Z,” it’s “an old-fashioned mystery for a modern age.”
POKER FACE (Peacock)
“Who would have thunk one of the greatest new shows was one part Columbo, one part The Fugitive, one part Gen Z angst?” Poker Face was the quirky mystery many artists gobbled up in 2023, with Natasha Lyonne as the charming Charlie Cale, a woman who talks plenty of sh!@ but can smell your bull$!%# from a mile away.
SCAVENGERS REIGN (Max)
The year’s best sci-fi series was this gorgeously animated drama, which OP artists heralded as an “Incredible creative high concept show.” Set in a dystopian future, the “gorgeous, gritty, and gripping” series is set on a far-off planet where four crew members of a downed spaceship try to survive. In it, “the Mœbius-inspired visuals are matched by some serious Sci-Fi smarts” where “Studio Ghibli meets Annihilation” and “a dark and twisted sci-fi tale with a graphic imagery and a great existential angle.”
SCOTT PILGRIM TAKES OFF (Netflix)
“An explosion of creativity, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off is everything a fan could dream of and more.” Bringing back the entire cast of the cult-fave 2010 film, this animated version expands upon the original story of the film in fantastical fashion and is a “wild, whimsical ride that’s as absurd as it is endearing.”
SWARM (Prime Video)
Artists highlighted this show about a (Queen Bey-esque?) superstar and her superfan, created by OP Episodic Lab advisor Janine Nabers, as “a provocative, striking, unpleasant yet gripping satirical take on fans and Stan culture.” The show was highlighted as “aesthetically brilliant and visually stunning” and “hits all the right notes, with great acting, direction and score, and all the risks it takes all pay off.”
Special mentions to returning (or completing) shows that made our artists’ lists: Succession, Barry, and The Other Two, What We Do In the Shadows, I Think You Should Leave, The Bear, and Somebody Somewhere.
THE NEW THEATRE OUR ARTISTS LOVED
THE EFFECT by Lucy Prebble (National Theatre, upcoming The Shed)
Some Orchard Project artists in London wanted to highlight Succession scribe Lucy Prebble’s drama at London’s National Theatre as it will be coming to the Shed in NYC this March. Following two young subjects in a drug trial, it was heralded as “a mind-bender that blurs the lines between love and drugs.”
JUST FOR US by Alex Edelman (Broadway)
The comedian Alex Edelman brought this downtown show up to Broadway and made many of our artists’ lists with this story of his infiltrating a white supremacist meeting in Queens. “This dive into the deep end of antisemitism couldn’t have been more prescient” and “beyond it’s humor and horror, was more about empathy than anything else.”
INFINITE LIFE by Annie Baker (Atlantic Theatre, National Theatre)
Orchard Project alum Annie Baker’s Infinite Life at the Atlantic Theater (and then National Theatre in the UK) turned an unlikely set up into an emotional powerhouse. Reading, chatting, and sleeping, “these women on stage make you feel every shade of pain and desire.” “It’s like Baker’s whispering life’s biggest secrets right into your soul.”
PENELOPE by Alex Bechtel, Grace McLean, and Eva Steinmetz (HVSF, upcoming at Signature Theatre)
A musical created at The Orchard Project in 2020 and 2022, “the intimacy and longing of Penelope blew [some of our artists’] minds.” It took a story that many “think of as SAT prep and revealed roiling passions and fresh ideas” and turned it into a musical much larger than you can ever think it could be. “Hold my beer, Alex Bechtel, Grace McLean, and Eva Steinmetz.”
STEREOPHONIC by David Adjmi (Playwrights Horizons, Upcoming Bway)
Stereophonic, which you will be able to catch this spring if you missed it Off-Broadway, “wasn’t just a trip down memory lane; it was a rollercoaster through the chaos of the ’70s rock-scene.” This play, which follows a 1970s rock band on the brink of superstardom, had “a slew of quotes you will put up on your wall next to the Angels in America ones.” David Adjmi’s genius slow burn of a play showed us the beauty and disaster of that era and had “a killer ensemble and killer tunes to boot.”
PUBLIC OBSCENITIES by Shayok Misha Chowdhury (Soho Rep, upcoming TFANA)
Shayok Misha Chowdhury’s intricate bilingual drama was “an intimate masterpiece!” and “like being drawn into a family, only to find every secret and longing laid bare.” An immersive and intimate dive into Bengali culture in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), it is a journey “into the heart of human connection and the mysteries that bind us.”
THE NEW PODCASTS OUR ARTISTS LOVED
MURDER ON SEX ISLAND
Maybe “the best titled show of the year,” this show is “whip smart” and “crazy funny.” Written and hosted by writer and comedian Jo Firestone, the audiobook-style fiction podcast is about a woman who escapes her boring Staten Island life by moonlighting as a private detective. “It’s candy sprinkled with candy. It’s delicious,” one artist said. “Very few things have made me smile as much.”
IN THE SCENES BEHIND PLAIN SIGHT
The nostalgia recap podcast you never knew you needed, particularly as it’s about a show that never existed. By discussing a fictional TV show, this spoof takes on podcasting and popular culture with “hilarity and self effacing wit.” One OP artist loved it so much, they said it made them remember “so much that happened – it almost didn’t register until I heard it on this rewatch podcast.”
Special shout-out to OP Performance Lab alum Dan Kitrosser, whose podcast about the eventful life of Joseph Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana Iosifovna Alliluyeva was “rollicking and crazy in all the right ways.” Avoiding the normal neatness of audio, it was “spectacularly free and fun,” highlighting the same charming qualities of Kitrosser’s story-telling that those who saw his hosting of an OP Cabaret in Saratoga in 2018 would remember.
EVERYTHING IS ALIVE PRESENTS: THE ANIMALS
This “enchanting” show from Radiotopia “feels like fiction and is a perfect escape.” Each episode contains an improvised conversation between host Ian Chillag (WWDTM) and a comedian who embodies the persona of an inanimate object, such as a soda can or a stool. This season is about animals. “It’s just so clever and hilarious.”
A “perfect mix of spooky and funny,” this podcast seems, like many new podcasts, to combine extraordinary storytelling techniques normally found in drama with a journalistic foundation. This “secret family history stuffed into a murder mystery stuffed into a digital ghost story” follows journalist Tristan Redman back to his childhood home, which *may* or *may not* have been haunted.